“We don’t have as a good as football history as we like to believe sometimes,” insisted England boss Gareth Southgate on Tuesday.
“These players are making massive strides and breaking barriers all the time, we have broken barriers in this tournament and we have another opportunity to do that tomorrow.”
The Three Lions had not won a knockout game at a European Championship in 25 years before beating Germany in the last 16 a week ago.
Now, after destroying Ukraine 4-0 in the quarter-final in Rome on Saturday, the nation expects.
Will England beat Denmark to reach the Euro 2020 Final? Let us know your thoughts
England face Denmark at Wembley on Wednesday night looking to book a final place against Italy on Sunday, following the Azzurri’s win over Spain on penalties in the first final four showdown.
Pubs across the country are set to be packed and television records may well be broken as Harry Kane and co look to book a first final appearance in a major competition since 1966.
It’s expected as many as 34 million – more than half the nation’s population – will tune in.
The England captain knows that the expectation of a nation weighs on his side’s shoulders, and in front of 60,000 fans at Wembley, he knows actions will speak louder than words.
“It’s a chance to go out there and prove it, we can talk as much as we want but the bottom line is we have to go out there and perform,” he declared on the eve of the match.
Some 10 hours before kickoff, England fans on Wembley Way were already queueing for the Boxpark, wanting to soak in a full day’s atmosphere before the big match.
Across the country, tens of thousands of supporters are expected to pack into pubs and bars to watch the encounter, being shown on ITV.
Even Atomic Kitten were getting into the spirit of things, having re-released a remixed version of ‘Whole Again’ in honour of Southgate; for the first time in 15 years, the trio, Natasha Hamilton, Liz McClarnon and Jenny Frost, reunited on Heart FM’s breakfast show.
The trio also danced along with the Hyde Park Brass band.
“It’s been a whirlwind couple of days, but we are super excited and grateful to be able to contribute to the awesome energy and patriotism that is filling the Streets with a brand new version of Whole Again,” they declared on Instagram.
Even Boris Johnson, despite his willingness not to chastise those who boo England players taking the knee, took to social media to offer his support.
“Today is the day. Come on England!” he declared, posing with a shirt with Boris, 10 on the back.
Nothing quite like politicians and bandwagon jumping is there. It’s assumed Priti Patel, having been chastised by Gary Neville after her triumphant post-match tweet on Saturday, is waiting for closer to kickoff.
As for wannabe politician Laurence Fox, presumably he’ll continue supporting England’s opposition, having hoped for a group stage exit. You have to wonder if their success stings more than losing his £10,000 deposit in his ill-fated London Mayor bid.
Ex-England manager Roy Hodgson believes Southgate’s side have been “absolutely perfect” during Euro 2020.
Hodgson, 73, who spent four years in charge of the national team until 2016, said he expected England to beat Denmark in Wednesday’s semi-final at Wembley.
“I’m very confident indeed because I think the England team is playing so exceptionally well from the start of the tournament really,” he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain.
“In fact, they have been faultless. I can’t think of anything to criticise, although I’m sure there are people who do find something.
“But they must be hard pushed to find something. It’s been absolutely perfect.
“Of course in football, as I heard someone say earlier, there is an element of hazard, there is a random chance.
“But I’m very certain England will play well and it will be a very good game. Sometimes games are decided by random factors and the fact that you’re a very good team doesn’t always help.”
Hodgson also said the crowd at Wembley will “play a major part” but is dreading the prospect of a penalty shoot-out.
“My main hope tonight is that the game won’t go to penalties,” he added. “You can argue that the penalty shoot-out is better than the flip of a coin, but it is a very cruel way to lose matches, in particular because the player who misses the penalty is often vilified afterwards.”
Denmark legend Peter Schmeichel – whose son, Kasper, is looking to emulate his father who won the tournament in 1992 – believes Kasper Hjulmand’s side “knows how to win”.
Denmark’s run at the tournament has come in remarkable circumstances after Christian Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest in their opening match.
“I’m very confident about the Danish team,” Peter Schmeichel told GMB.
“You might think this run of form has come from the incident with Christian Eriksen, it hasn’t, it’s a team that’s played 44 games and lost three so it’s a team that knows how to win and how to play.
“It’s a team that’s been in the making for four years and we have a new coach who has taken over that incredible building work and added some extra elements to it and made it a lot better.”
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